Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday placed the entire country under complete lockdown for next 21 days to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic in India, where it has claimed 11 lives* and infected 562 people** so far. A full ban is being imposed on people from stepping out of their homes, PM Modi said. “All the States in the country, all the Union Territories, each district, each municipality, each village, each locality is being put under lockdown. This is like a curfew only,” he said. Experiences from other countries and experts opinion has proved that the only effective way to deal with the coronavirus pandemic is social distancing, he said. The COVID-19 pandemic has so far claimed over 18,000 lives and has infected over 420,00 people worldwide.

Essential services to continue

Following the speech, the Home Ministry said all commercial and private establishments will be shut down, except for essential services including medicines, food, ration, media, e-commerce delivery, internet and telecom, among others. The Home Ministry said district authorities should “encourage and facilitate” home delivery to minimise the movement of individuals outside their homes.

Services which are allowed to operate include:

  • Essential services, including shops (including ration stores under PDS), food, groceries, dairy and milk, meat and fish, animal fodder
  • Banks, insurance offices, ATMs
  • Print and electronic media
  • Telecom, internet, broadcasting and cable, and IT-enabled essential services, with work-from-home as far as possible
  • Delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment via e-commerce
  • Petrol pumps, LPG, gas retail and storage outlets
  • All industries except for manufacturing of essential services

The Home Ministry added more services which are exempted from the lockdown in an addendum issued on March 25:

  • RBI, and RBI-regulated financial markets and entities like NPCI, CCIL, payment system operators, with bare minimum staff
  • GSTN amd MCA 21 registry, with bare minimum staff
  • Data and call centre for government activities only

Earlier yesterday, before PM Modi announced the lockdown, MEITY had told all state governments in an advisory to treat e-commerce functions, such as delivery, warehouse operations, shipping and logistics, as essential functions.

PM Modi also warned against believing in rumors and superstitions, urging people “to be careful that during such times, knowingly or unknowingly, several rumors are circulated” and not to believe in them. He also warned against self-medicating without consulting doctors in case of any symptoms.

He also announced Rs 15,000 crore for treating COVID-19 patients and strengthening the health infrastructure. This will allow for higher COVID-19 testing facilities, personal protective equipment, isolation beds, ICU beds, ventilators, and other essential equipment, PM Modi said.

* as reported by Indian Express. The Health Ministry lists 9 deaths.
** Total of active and recovered cases, as of March 25 (12:00 IST)

(Updated on March 26 12:25 PM IST. Originally published on March 25 12:01 PM IST)